Tag Archives: dennis lehane

BABY, GONE Again As GIRL Arrives

Photo by Rose Lincoln

Photo by Rose Lincoln

Hearing huge news about two of my favorite mystery series on the same day almost made me pass out from too much joy. The Boston Herald reports that Dennis Lehane, who last year told Entertainment Weekly “it’s highly unlikely” he would ever write another whodunit, much less another Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro book, will be bringing back the Boston P.I.s for another go-round. Not only that, it’s a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know this case really messed up Patrick and Angie. Can’t wait to see how they’ve handled the fallout and what happens when the case rears its ugly head again.

Danish actress Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth

Swedish actress Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth

The other exciting news is that, according to Variety, the Swedish movie version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (called simply Millenium) will finally get a U.S. release early next year. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most arresting figures in crime fiction today and I imagine she’ll be just as badass on screen.

You excited about these news or is it just me?

SHUTTER ISLAND Trailer

from firstshowing.net

Cannes poster, from firstshowing.net

Here’s another one to put on your must-see/must-read list (sorry, Shelley P and Julien, for making your stack so tall!). When Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island first came out in 2003, I wrote the review below for mysteryinkonline.com. When I heard about Martin Scorsese directing a movie version with that cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Jackie Earle Haley, Emily Mortimer—insane!), I was like a kid who couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve.

Now the trailer’s here. How crazy, creepy is it? The movie opens October 2 in the U.S. and Canada (Oct. 1 for Shelley P, Oct. 9 for Poncho and Oct. 14 for Julien) but Santa can’t come soon enough!

My 2003 review of the book (no spoilers):

shutter islandA few years ago, Dennis Lehane decided to take a sabbatical from his Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro series to write a different kind of thriller. Lehane has said he wanted to improve his prose instead of relying on his usual minimalist, dialogue-laden style. This change of direction led him to Mystic River, a languidly-paced, character-driven mystery that became a critical and commercial breakthrough for him (and an Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood movie). Now, with his follow-up, Shutter Island, Lehane continues his growth as a sophisticated and insightful writer.

Island takes place in 1954 and follows U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of a mental patient from a maximum security institution for the most violent and insane offenders. This hospital is located on the eponymous island and shelters almost as many secrets as residents. After the marshals’ arrivals, the island is hit by a deadly hurricane which temporarily neutralizes the electric-powered security systems. Daniels and Aule are trapped with escaped criminals, ambiguous doctors possibly dabbling in illegal experiments and a mysterious “67th patient” whose identity no one seems to know. Daniels struggles to uncover the truth about the island’s nefarious activities while struggling with grief from the recent death of his wife (aptly named Dolores, meaning “pains” in Spanish). Daniels may also have a secret agenda for being on the island but the question becomes: Will he and Aule ever get off the island?

First with Mystic River and now with Island, Lehane proves he is definitely moving in the right direction. There are many passages in Island which beautifully demonstrate his insight into the human condition. He can illustrate emotions such as love and sorrow as tangible entities, living things which can lift you off your feet or stab you in the heart. And while his prose has certainly become more eloquent, he has not abandoned his gift for dialogue. The marshals have an easy banter between them and there are touches of humor courtesy of Aule, who functions as the good cop of the duo.

As good as Mystic River was, Shutter Island is even more accomplished, with a plot that’s more complex. Just when the reader thinks he knows where the story is headed, it turns down a surprising path. As many plot twists as Island contains, however, they’re not there just for shock value and nothing else. Each revelation is duly supported by earlier events, making the ending—and the book—a tense and satisfyingly plausible read.

When Is It Time to Give Up a Series Character?

I read a lot of mystery-thrillers and in this genre, there are many series characters—Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole, to name just a few. Some have been around for decades and falling into one of their stories is like reconnecting with an old friend. But recently, I had a couple of disappointing experiences which made me wonder: How long should your friend stay around before overstaying his/her welcome?

Linda Barnes writes a series about Boston P.I. Carlotta Carlyle, a fiery, red-headed, cab-driving investigator whose on-again/off-again lover is connected to the mafia. These books used to break my heart, especially Coyote, in which Carlotta stumbles upon a scheme exploiting illegal immigrants. Carlotta was someone who was tough but always human and she would evolve as each case affected her (unlike some series characters who seem to hit the reset button after every book).

But lately Carlotta has become infuriating to me. She keeps getting sucked into shady business involving her on-again/off-again mob boyfriend, Sam. You’d think a smart cookie like her would just dump him for good already because she doesn’t seem to love him—it’s more a lust thing. I found myself skipping huge chunks of the book whenever it deals with Carlotta’s Oh-can-I-trust-Sam? dilemma. The answer is no, he gives you no reason to, get on with it. I only kept reading because I was curious about the case, which wasn’t one of her best.

Carlotta’s relationship with “little sister” Paolina has also worn thin. Paolina never seems to appreciate all Carlotta does for her and made only a cameo appearance in this latest installment (I didn’t miss her). I couldn’t help thinking perhaps it’s time for Carlotta to let Paolina go, just as it’s time for us to let Carlotta retire.

Meanwhile, across town, a couple of investigators have been retired before their time. In a recent Entertainment Weekly interview, Dennis Lehane said it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever write another mystery (using terms like “I couldn’t care less” and “It sucked”), much less one involving his Boston P.I.s Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, featured in Gone, Baby, Gone and four other novels.

I think this series is a superior one so I was dismayed by this announcement. I believe Patrick and Angie have at least a few more stories left in them so I’m not ready to say goodbye. Lehane went on to ridicule Patrick, saying, “…I was using Patrick as my doppelgänger during my 20s and 30s. Now he’d just piss me off. It’s like, ‘Grow up, dude!”’

Did Lehane just insult one of his finest creations and the legions of readers devoted to him? Is the author implying we’re immature for still enjoying Patrick and Angie? I wanted to write a letter of protest or just beg Lehane to reconsider. How about letting Kenzie evolve into a man in his 40s (like Lehane)? He doesn’t have to stay in his 30s.

But then I thought, Am I being unfair to the author? If he’s not passionate about a character or genre, how can he make it interesting for himself and readers? Shouldn’t we allow writers to stretch creatively? Do they really owe readers anything? I believe writers should write for themselves because it’s impossible to please everyone. Lehane can do as he pleases but he didn’t have to trash Patrick and mysteries in general, in effect insulting the many fans who embraced his earlier books.

given dayPerhaps Lehane should take a page from what Robert Crais said at a book signing I attended. I don’t recall the exact words but the gist was that a book is a collaboration between him and his readers and therefore, a book isn’t complete until we’ve interacted with it. I can only hope then that Lehane’s newest release, a historical epic called The Given Day, will be a finished book.